Microfilm Interloan Service

Are the Index and Estate Files available on this website?

No. The Indexes and Estate Files are not available on this website. This website provides directions on how to determine which microfilm reels you need to use in order to find the estate files that you are seeking. These reels can then be consulted in our reading room in Toronto or borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Are all Wills in the court records?

No. If the deceased's estate consisted ONLY of real estate (e.g. farmers), the original Will may have been deposited in the local Land Registry Office to transfer the land to the heirs. Some Land Registry Offices hold over 60% of all surviving Wills. Because they were never probated, these Wills are not indexed or registered in the court records. Contact the Archives of Ontario at reference@ontario.ca for more details.

Why should I be looking for an Estate File rather than a Will?

An Estate File contains the documents used by the Surrogate Court to disperse the deceased's estate, whether they died with a Will (testate) or without a Will (intestate). The contents can include: Petition for Probate (with Will), Petition for Administration (without Will), the original Will, the executors' or administrators' oaths, and an inventory of the assets. Our glossary of legal terms provides definitions of some key terms relating to estate matters.

For what years does the Archives of Ontario hold Estate files?

From 1793 to 1963. A new year of files comes into the Archives' custody each year.

Have all Estate Files been microfilmed?

No. Most Estate Files have been microfilmed up to 1930 (with some exceptions). These records, and indexes to them, must be consulted in our reading room in Toronto, borrowed through interlibrary loan, or through a Family History Centre. Estate Files created after 1930 are available only in their original paper format. You must provide an Estate File number to consult the file or to request copies.

Does every Courthouse have a straightforward Index of its Estate Files?

Unfortunately, no. Because court files were stored in local Registry Offices, the Courthouse only kept a transcript of the Will in the on-site Register Books (see the glossary at the end of this Handout). Some Courthouses only listed the Estate File number in these Registers. If no Index is listed in the User's Guide to Surrogate Courts and Surrogate Clerk Microfilm Reels for a particular County, retrieve the microfilm reel of the Register for the appropriate years. The Estate File numbers will either be listed in the index at the beginning/end of the volume or in the margin of the page indicated.

Were all estates dispersed shortly after the owner died?

No. Many estates were not dispersed until the spouse had also died or the children had come of age. Delays of several decades are not unusual.

Should I also record the year that the courts handled the estate?

Yes. Some Counties restarted sequentially numbering their Estate Files every January 1st. More populated Counties restarted every couple of decades when the Estate File numbers became too unwieldy.

Does every Index list the Estate File numbers in the same column?

No. Courthouses used different columns in their Indexes to list the Estate File number beside the deceased's name. For more information consult our Wills and Estates Pathfinder.

On the microfilm of the Estate Files, where do I find the Estate File number?

When Estate Files were folded and filed, a small wrapper was placed around the bundle. In most cases, only the wrapper will list the Estate File number. On most Estate File microfilm, the wrappers are smaller papers preceding the larger legal-sized pages of the file itself.

Is the Application Number the same as the Estate File Number?

No. The deceased's Application Number has no relation to the Estate File Number. The Office of the Surrogate Clerk of Ontario assigned application numbers; Estate File numbers were assigned by the local Surrogate Courts.

What is the difference between a Non-contentious Business (NCB) book and a Grant Book?

In many cases both books were used as Indexes to the Surrogate Court Records for that county or district. They were actually created as Registers of the courts actions, specifically:

Non-contentious Business (NCB) books: These volumes kept by the surrogate Court Registrar to record of all applications made to the court for grants of probate or administration, regardless of whether a final grant was issued. NCB books were first required to be kept by the Surrogate Courts in 1858 and usually includes: the application number, the name, residence, and addition of the deceased, the date of death, the date the application was received, the name, residence, and addition of the applicant, the nature of the application (i.e. probate or administration), the date notice was sent to the Surrogate Clerk and the date of receipt of the Clerk's certificate, the date the order for the grant was made, and any other proceedings in the case. Included in the latter category are indications of inventories filed, accounts passed, and renunciations made. Also, if an estate became contentious (i.e. if the will or the grant of probate or administration was contested), the filing of a caveat against the estate was also noted. From 1902, each entry also indicates the value of the real and personal property of the estate.

Grant books: These volumes were kept by the Surrogate Court Registrar to serve as the record of all grants of probate, administration, and guardianship of the Ontario County Surrogate Court. Unlike the Non-contentious Business books, which record all applications made to the court, the Grant books record only those grants which were actually issued. Each entry includes: the name, residence and occupation of the deceased; the date of death; the date of the grant; the names, residence, and occupations of the executors, administrators, or guardian; and the nature of the grant (i.e. probate, administration, or guardianship).


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